The senior member of the
legal firm of Rae & Macpherson was perplexed and annoyed, indeed angry,
and angry chiefly because he was perplexed. He resented such a
condition of mind as reflecting upon his legal and other acumen.
Angry, too, he was because he had been forced to accept, the previous day,
a favour from a firm--Mr. Rae would not condescend to say a rival
firm--with which he for thirty years had maintained only the most distant
and formal relations, to wit, the firm of Thomlinson & Shields.
Messrs. Rae & Macpherson were family solicitors and for three generations
had been such; hence there gathered about the firm a fine flavour of
assured respectability which only the combination of solid integrity and
undoubted antiquity can give. Messrs. Rae & Macpherson had not
yielded in the slightest degree to that commercialising spirit which would
transform a respectable and self-respecting firm of family solicitors into
a mere financial agency; a transformation which Mr. Rae would consider a
degradation of an ancient and honourable profession. This
uncompromising attitude toward the commercialising spirit of the age had
doubtless something to do with their losing the solicitorship for the Bank
of Scotland, which went to the firm of Thomlinson & Shields, to Mr. Rae's
keen, though unacknowledged, disappointment; a disappointment that arose
not so much from the loss of the very honourable and lucrative
appointment, and more from the fact that the appointment should go to such
a firm as that of Thomlinson & Shields. For the firm of Thomlinson &
Shields were of recent origin, without ancestry, boasting an existence of
only some thirty-five years, and, as one might expect of a firm of such
recent origin, characterised by the commercialising modern spirit in its
most pronounced and objectionable form. Mr. Rae, of course, would
never condescend to hostile criticism, dismissing Messrs. Thomlinson &
Shields from the conversation with the single remark, "Pushing, Sir, very
It was, then, no small
humiliation for Mr. Rae to be forced to accept a favour from Mr.
Thomlinson. "Had it been any other than Cameron," he said to
himself, as he sat in his somewhat dingy and dusty office, "I would let
him swither. But Cameron! I must see to it and at once."
Behind the name there rose before Mr. Rae's imagination a long line of
brave men and fair women for whose name and fame and for whose good estate
it had been his duty and the duty of those who had preceded him in office
to assume responsibility.
"Young fool! Much he
cares for the honour of his family! I wonder what's at the bottom of
this business! Looks ugly! Decidedly ugly! The first
thing is to find him." A messenger had failed to discover young
Cameron at his lodgings, and had brought back the word that for a week he
had not been seen there. "He must be found. They have given me
till to-morrow. I cannot ask a further stay of proceedings; I cannot
and I will not." It made Mr. Rae more deeply angry that he knew
quite well if necessity arose he would do just that very thing.
"Then there's his father coming in this evening. We simply must find
him. But how and where?"
Mr. Rae was not unskilled
in such a matter. "Find a man, find his friends," he muttered.
"Let's see. What does the young fool do? What are his games?
Ah! Football! I have it! Young Dunn is my man."
Hence to young Dunn forthwith Mr. Rae betook himself.
It was still early in the
day when Mr. Rae's mild, round, jolly, clean-shaven face beamed in upon
Mr. Dunn, who sat with dictionaries, texts, and class notebooks piled high
about him, burrowing in that mound of hidden treasure which it behooves
all prudent aspirants for university honours to diligently mine as the
fateful day approaches. With Mr. Dunn time had now come to be
measured by moments, and every moment golden. But the wrathful
impatience that had gathered in his face at the approach of an intruder
was overwhelmed in astonishment at recognising so distinguished a visitor
as Mr. Rae the Writer.
"Ah, Mr. Dunn," said Mr.
Rae briskly, "a moment only, one moment, I assure you. Well do I
know the rage which boils behind that genial smile of yours. Don't
deny it, Sir. Have I not suffered all the pangs, with just a week
before the final ordeal? This is your final, I believe?"
"I hope so," said Mr. Dunn
"Yes, yes, and a very fine
career, a career befitting your father's son. And I sincerely trust,
Sir, that as your career has been marked by honour, your exit shall be
with distinction; and all the more that I am not unaware of your
achievements in another department of--ah--shall I say endeavour. I
have seen your name, Sir, mentioned more than once, to the honour of our
university, in athletic events." At this point Mr. Rae's face broke
into a smile.
An amazing smile was Mr.
Rae's; amazing both in the suddenness of its appearing and in the
suddenness of its vanishing. Upon a face of supernatural gravity,
without warning, without beginning, the smile, broad, full and effulgent,
was instantaneously present. Then equally without warning and without
fading the smile ceased to be. Under its effulgence the observer
unfamiliar with Mr. Rae's smile was moved, to a responsive geniality of
expression, but in the full tide of this emotion he found himself suddenly
regarding a face of such preternatural gravity as rebuked the very
possibility or suggestion of geniality. Before the smile Mr. Rae's
face was like a house, with the shutters up and the family plunged in
gloom. When the smile broke forth every shutter was flung wide to the
pouring sunlight, and every window full of flowers and laughing children.
Then instantly and without warning the house was blank, lifeless, and
shuttered once more, leaving you helplessly apologetic that you had ever
been guilty of the fatuity of associating anything but death and gloom
with its appearance.
To young Mr. Dunn it was
extremely disconcerting to discover himself smiling genially into a face
of the severest gravity, and eyes that rebuked him for his untimely
levity. "Oh, I beg pardon," exclaimed Mr. Dunn hastily, "I
"Not at all, Sir," replied
Mr. Rae. "As I was saying, I have observed from time to time the
distinctions you have achieved in the realm of athletics. And that
reminds me of my business with you to-day,--a sad business, a serious
business, I fear." The solemn impressiveness of Mr. Rae's manner
awakened in Mr. Dunn an awe amounting to dread. "It is young
Cameron, a friend of yours, I believe, Sir."
"Cameron, Sir!" echoed
"Yes, Cameron. Does
he, or did he not have a place on your team?"
Dunn sat upright and alert.
"Yes, Sir. What's the matter, Sir?"
"First of all, do you know
where he is? I have tried his lodgings. He is not there. It is
important that I find him to-day, extremely important; in fact, it is
necessary; in short, Mr. Dunn,--I believe I can confide in your
discretion,--if I do not find him to-day, the police will to-morrow."
"The police, Sir!"
Dunn's face expressed an awful fear. In the heart of the respectable
Briton the very mention of the police in connection with the private life
of any of his friends awakens a feeling of gravest apprehension. No
wonder Mr. Dunn's face went pale! "The police!" he said a second
time. "What for?"
Mr. Rae remained silent.
"If it is a case of debts,
Sir," suggested Mr. Dunn, "why, I would gladly--"
Mr. Rae waved him aside.
"It is sufficient to say, Mr. Dunn, that we are the family solicitors, as
we have been for his father, his grandfather and great-grandfather before
"Oh, certainly, Sir.
I beg pardon," said Mr. Dunn hastily.
"Not at all; quite proper;
does you credit. But it is not a case of debts, though it is a case
of money; in fact, Sir,--I feel sure I may venture to confide in you,--he
is in trouble with his bank, the Bank of Scotland. The young man, or
someone using his name, has been guilty of--ah--well, an irregularity, a
decided irregularity, an irregularity which the bank seems inclined to--
to--follow up; indeed, I may say, instructions have been issued through
their solicitors to that effect. Mr. Thomlinson was good enough to
bring this to my attention, and to offer a stay of proceedings for a day."
"Can I do anything, Sir?"
said Dunn. "I'm afraid I've neglected him. The truth is, I've
been in an awful funk about my exams, and I haven't kept in touch as I
"Find him, Mr. Dunn, find
him. His father is coming to town this evening, which makes it
doubly imperative. Find him; that is, if you can spare the time."
"Of course I can. I'm
awfully sorry I've lost touch with him. He's been rather down all this
winter; in fact, ever since the International he seems to have lost his
grip of himself."
"Ah, indeed!" said Mr. Rae.
"I remember that occasion; in fact, I was present myself," he admitted.
"I occasionally seek to renew my youth." Mr. Rae's smile broke
forth, but anxiety for his friend saved Mr. Dunn from being caught again
in any responsive smile. "Bring him to my office, if you can, any time
to-day. Good-bye, Sir. Your spirit does you credit. But
it is the spirit which I should expect in a man who plays the forward line
as you play it."
Mr. Dunn blushed crimson.
"Is there anything else I could do? Anyone I could see? I mean, for
instance, could my father serve in any way?"
"Ah, a good suggestion!"
Mr. Rae seized his right ear,--a characteristic action of his when in deep
thought,--twisted it into a horn, and pulled it quite severely as if to
assure himself that that important feature of his face was firmly fixed in
its place. "A very good suggestion! Your father knows Mr. Sheratt,
the manager of the bank, I believe."
"Very well, Sir, I think,"
answered Mr. Dunn. "I am sure he would see him. Shall I call
him in, Sir?"
"Nothing of the sort,
nothing of the sort; don't think of it! I mean, let there be nothing
formal in this matter. If Mr. Dunn should chance to meet Mr. Sheratt,
that is, casually, so to speak, and if young Cameron's name should come
up, and if Mr. Dunn should use his influence, his very great influence,
with Mr. Sheratt, the bank might be induced to take a more lenient view of
the case. I think I can trust you with this." Mr. Rae shook
the young man warmly by the hand, beamed on him for one brief moment with
his amazing smile, presented to his answering smile a face of unspeakable
gravity, and left him extremely uncertain as to the proper appearance for
his face, under the circumstances.
Before Mr. Rae had gained
the street Dunn was planning his campaign; for no matter what business he
had in hand, Dunn always worked by plan. By the time he himself had
reached the street his plan was formed. "No use trying his digs.
Shouldn't be surprised if that beast Potts has got him. Rotten
bounder, Potts, and worse! Better go round his way." And oscillating
in his emotions between disgust and rage at Cameron for his weakness and
his folly, and disgust and rage at himself for his neglect of his friend,
Dunn took his way to the office of the Insurance Company which was
honoured by the services of Mr. Potts.
The Insurance Company knew
nothing of the whereabouts of Mr. Potts. Indeed, the young man who assumed
responsibility for the information appeared to treat the very existence of
Mr. Potts as a matter of slight importance to his company; so slight,
indeed, that the company had not found it necessary either to the
stability of its business or to the protection of its policy holders--a
prime consideration with Insurance Companies--to keep in touch with Mr.
Potts. That gentleman had left for the East coast a week ago, and
that was the end of the matter as far as the clerk of the Insurance
Company was concerned.
At his lodgings Mr. Dunn
discovered an even more callous indifference to Mr. Potts and his
interests. The landlady, under the impression that in Mr. Dunn she
beheld a prospective lodger, at first received him with that deferential
reserve which is the characteristic of respectable lodging-house keepers
in that city of respectable lodgers and respectable lodging-house keepers.
When, however, she learned the real nature of Mr. Dunn's errand, she
became immediately transformed. In a voice shrill with indignation
she repudiated Mr. Potts and his affairs, and seemed chiefly concerned to
re-establish her own reputation for respectability, which she seemed to
consider as being somewhat shattered by that of her lodger. Mr. Dunn
was embarrassed both by her volubility and by her obvious determination to
fasten upon him a certain amount of responsibility for the character and
conduct of Mr. Potts.
"Do you know where Mr.
Potts is now, and have you any idea when he may return?" inquired Mr.
Dunn, seizing a fortunate pause.
"Am I no' juist tellin'
ye," cried the landlady, in her excitement reverting to her native South
Country dialect, "that I keep nae coont o' Mr. Potts' stravagins?
An' as to his return, I ken naething aboot that an' care less. He's
paid what he's been owing me these three months an' that's all I care
"I am glad to hear that,"
said Mr. Dunn heartily.
"An' glad I am tae, for
it's feared I was for my pay a month back."
"When did he pay up?"
inquired Mr. Dunn, scenting a clue.
"A week come Saturday,--or
was it Friday?--the day he came in with a young man, a friend of his.
And a night they made of it, I remember," replied the landlady, recovering
command of herself and of her speech under the influence of Mr. Dunn's
"Did you know the young man
that was with him?"
"Yes, it was young Cameron.
He had been coming about a good deal."
"Oh, indeed! And have
you seen Mr. Cameron since?"
"No; he never came except
in company with Mr. Potts."
And with this faint clue
Mr. Dunn was forced to content himself, and to begin a systematic search
of Cameron's haunts in the various parts of the town. It was Martin,
his little quarter-back, that finally put him on the right track. He
had heard Cameron's pipes not more than an hour ago at his lodgings in
"But what do you want of
Cameron these days?" inquired the young Canadian. "There's nothing
on just now, is there, except this infernal grind?"
Dunn hesitated. "Oh,
I just want him. In fact, he has got into some trouble."
"There you are!" exclaimed
Martin in disgust. "Why in thunder should you waste time on him?
You've taken enough trouble with him this winter already. It's his
own funeral, ain't it?"
Dunn looked at him a half
moment in surprise. "Well, you can't go back on a fellow when he's
down, can you?"
"Look here, Dunn, I've
often thought I'd give you a little wise advice. This sounds bad, I
know, but there's a lot of blamed rot going around this old town just on
this point. When a fellow gets on the bum and gets into a hole he
knows well that there'll be a lot of people tumbling over each other to
get him out, hence he deliberately and cheerfully slides in. If he
knew he'd have to scramble out himself he wouldn't be so blamed keen to
get in. If he's in a hole let him frog it for awhile, by Jingo!
He's hitting the pace, let him take his bumps! He's got to take 'em
sooner or later, and better sooner than later, for the sooner he takes 'em
the quicker he'll learn. Bye-bye! I know you think I'm a semi-
civilised Colonial. I ain't; I'm giving you some wisdom gained from
experience. You can't swim by hanging on to a root, you bet!"
Dunn listened in silence,
then replied slowly, "I say, old chap, there's something in that. My
governor said something like that some time ago: 'A trainer's
business is to train his men to do without him.'"
"There you are!" cried
Martin. "That's philosophy! Mine's just horse sense."
"Still," said Dunn
thoughtfully, "when a chap's in you've got to lend a hand; you simply
can't stand and look on." Dunn's words, tone, and manner revealed
the great, honest heart of human sympathy which he carried in his big
"Oh, hang it," cried
Martin, "I suppose so! Guess I'll go along with you. I can't
forget you pulled me out, too."
"Thanks, old chap," cried
Dunn, brightening up, "but you're busy, and--"
"Busy! By Jingo,
you'd think so if you'd watch me over night and hear my brain sizzle.
But come along, I'm going to stay with you!"
But Dunn's business was
private, and could be shared with no one. It was difficult to check his
friend's newly-aroused ardour. "I say, old chap," he said, "you
really don't need to come along. I can do--"
"Oh, go to blazes! I
know you too well! Don't you worry about me! You've got me going,
and I'm in on this thing; so come along!"
Then Dunn grew firm.
"Thanks, awfully, old man," he said, "but it's a thing I'd rather do
alone, if you don't mind."
"Oh!" said Martin.
"All right! But say, if you need me I'm on. You're a great old
brick, though! Tra-la!"
As Martin had surmised,
Dunn found Cameron in his rooms. He was lying upon his bed enjoying
the luxury of a cigarette. "Hello! Come right in, old chap!" he
cried, in gay welcome. "Have a--no, you won't have a cigarette--have
Dunn gazed at him,
conscious of a rising tide of mingled emotions, relief, wrath, pity,
disgust. "Well, I'll be hanged!" at last he said slowly. "But
you've given us a chase! Where in the world have you been?"
"Been? Oh, here and
there, enjoying my emancipation from the thralldom in which doubtless you
are still sweating."
"And what does that mean
"Mean? It means that
I've cut the thing,--notebooks, lectures, professors, exams, 'the hale
hypothick,' as our Nannie would say at home."
"Oh rot, Cameron! You
don't mean it?"
"Circumspice. Do you
behold any suggestion of knotted towels and the midnight oil?"
Dunn gazed about the room.
It was in a whirl of confusion. Pipes and pouches, a large box of
cigarettes, a glass and a half-empty decanter, were upon the table; boots,
caps, golf-clubs, coats, lay piled in various corners. "Pardon the
confusion, dear sir," cried Cameron cheerfully, "and lay it not to the
charge of my landlady. That estimable woman was determined to make entry
this afternoon, but was denied." Cameron's manner one of gay and
"Come, Cameron," said Dunn
sadly, "what does this mean? You're not serious; you're not chucking
"Just that, dear fellow,
and nothing less. Might as well as be ploughed."
"And what then are you
going to do?" Dunn's voice was full of a great pity. "What
about your people? What about your father? And, by Jove, that
reminds me, he's coming to town this evening. You know they've been trying
to find you everywhere this last day or two."
"And who are 'they,' pray?"
"Who? The police,"
said Dunn bluntly, determined to shock his friend into seriousness.
Cameron sat up quickly.
"The police? What do you mean, Dunn?"
"What it means I do not
know, Cameron, I assure you. Don't you?"
"The police!" said Cameron
again. "It's a joke, Dunn."
"I wish to Heaven it were,
Cameron, old man! But I have it straight from Mr. Rae, your family
solicitor. They want you."
"Old Rae?" exclaimed
Cameron. "Now what the deuce does this all mean?"
"Don't you really know, old
chap?" said Dunn kindly, anxiety and relief struggling in his face.
"No more than you.
What did the old chap say, anyway?"
"Something about a Bank; an
irregularity, he called it, a serious irregularity. He's had it
staved off for a day."
"The Bank? What in
Heaven's name have I got to do with the Bank? Let's see; I was there a
week or ten days ago with--" he paused. "Hang it, I can't remember!"
He ran his hands through his long black locks, and began to pace the room.
Dunn sat watching him, hope
and fear, doubt and faith filling his heart in succession.
Cameron sat down with his
face in his hands. "What is it, old man? Can't I help you?" said
Dunn, putting his hand on his shoulder.
"I can't remember,"
muttered Cameron. "I've been going it some, you know. I had
been falling behind and getting money off Potts. Two weeks ago I got my
monthly five-pound cheque, and about ten days ago the usual fifty-pound
cheque to square things up for the year, fees, etc. Seems to me I
cashed those. Or did Potts? Anyway I paid Potts. The deuce
take it, I can't remember! You know I can carry a lot of Scotch and
never show it, but it plays the devil with my memory." Cameron was
growing more and more excited.
"Well, old chap, we must go
right along to Mr. Rae's office. You don't mind?"
"Mind? Not a bit.
Old Rae has no love for me,--I get him into too much trouble,--but he's a
straight old boy. Just wait till I brush up a bit." He poured
out from a decanter half a glass of whiskey.
"I'd cut that out if I were
you," said Dunn.
"Later, perhaps," replied
Cameron, "but not to-day."
Within twenty minutes they
were ushered into Mr. Rae's private office. That gentleman received
them with a gravity that was portentous in its solemnity. "Well,
Sir, you have succeeded in your task," he said to Mr. Dunn. "I wish
to thank you for this service, a most valuable service to me, to this
young gentleman, and to his family; though whether much may come of it
remains to be seen."
"Oh, thanks," said Dunn
hurriedly. "I hope everything will be all right." He rose to
go. Cameron looked at him quickly. There was no mistaking the
entreaty in his face.
Mr. Rae spoke somewhat more
hurriedly than his wont. "If it is not asking too much, and if you
can still spare time, your presence might be helpful, Mr. Dunn."
"Stay if you can, old
chap," said Cameron. "I don't know what this thing is, but I'll do
better if you're in the game, too." It was an appeal to his captain,
and after that nothing on earth could have driven Dunn from his side.
At this point the door
opened and the clerk announced, "Captain Cameron, Sir."
Mr. Rae rose hastily.
"Tell him," he said quickly, "to wait--"
He was too late. The
Captain had followed close upon the heels of the clerk, and came in with a
rush. "Now, what does all this mean?" he cried, hardly waiting to
shake hands with his solicitor. "What mischief--?"
"I beg your pardon,
Captain," said Mr. Rae calmly, "let me present Mr. Dunn, Captain Dunn, I
might say, of International fame." The solicitor's smile broke forth
with its accustomed unexpectedness, but had vanished long before Mr. Dunn
in his embarrassment had finished shaking hands with Captain Cameron.
The Captain then turned to
his son. "Well, Sir, and what is this affair of yours that calls me
to town at a most inconvenient time?" His tone was cold, fretful, and
Young Cameron's face, which
had lighted up with a certain eagerness and appeal as he had turned toward
his father, as if in expectation of sympathy and help, froze at this
greeting into sullen reserve. "I don't know any more than yourself, Sir,"
he answered. "I have just come into this office this minute."
"Well, then, what is it,
Mr. Rae?" The Captain's voice and manner were distinctly imperious,
if not overbearing.
Mr. Rae, however, was king
of his own castle. "Will you not be seated, Sir?" he said, pointing
to a chair. "Sit down, young gentlemen."
His quiet dignity, his
perfect courtesy, recalled the Captain to himself. "I beg your
pardon, Mr. Rae, but I am really much disturbed. Can we begin at
once?" He glanced as he spoke at Mr. Dunn, who immediately rose.
"Sit down, Mr. Dunn," said
Mr. Rae quietly. "I have asked this young gentleman," he continued,
turning to the Captain, "to remain. He has already given me valuable
assistance. I fancy he may be able to serve us still further, if he
will be so good."
Mr. Dunn bowed in silence.
"Now let us proceed with
what must be an exceedingly painful matter for us all, and out of which
nothing but extreme candour on the part of Mr. Allan here, and great
wisdom on the part of us all, can possibly extract us." Mr. Rae's
glance rested upon the Captain, who bowed, and upon his son, who made no
sign whatever, but remained with his face set in the same sullen gloom
with which he had greeted his father.
Mr. Rae opened a drawer and
brought forth a slip of paper. "Mr. Allan," he said, with a certain
sharpness in his tone, "please look at this."
Cameron came to the desk,
picked up the paper, glanced at it. "It is my father's cheque," he
said, "which I received about a week ago."
"Look at the endorsement,
please," said Mr. Rae.
Cameron turned it over.
A slight flush came to his pale face. "It is mine to--" he
hesitated, "Mr. Potts."
"Mr. Potts cashed it then?"
"I suppose so. I
believe so. I owed him money, and he gave me back some."
"How much did you owe him?"
"A considerable amount.
I had been borrowing of him for some time."
"As much as fifty pounds?"
"I cannot tell. I did
not keep count, particularly; Potts did that."
The Captain snorted
contemptuously. "Do you mean to say--?" he began.
"Pardon me, Captain
Cameron. Allow me," said Mr. Rae.
"Now, Mr. Allan, do you
think you owed him as much as the amount of that cheque?"
"I do not know, but I think
"Had you any other money?"
"No," said Allan shortly;
"at least I may have had a little remaining from the five pounds I had
received from my father a few days before."
"You are quite sure you had
no other money?"
"Quite certain," replied
Again Mr. Rae opened his
desk and drew forth a slip and handed it to young Cameron. "What is
that?" he said.
Cameron glanced at it
hurriedly, and turned it over. "That is my father's cheque for five
pounds, which I cashed."
Mr. Rae stretched out his
hand and took the cheque. "Mr. Allan," he said, "I want you to
consider most carefully your answer." He leaned across the desk and
for some moments--they seemed like minutes to Dunn--his eyes searched
young Cameron's face. "Mr. Allan," he said, with a swift change of
tone, his voice trembling slightly, "will you look at the amount of that
Cameron once more took the
cheque, glanced at it. "Good Lord!" he cried. "It is fifty!"
His face showed blank amazement.
Quick, low, and stern came
Mr. Rae's voice. "Yes," he said, "it is for fifty pounds. Do
you know that that is a forgery, the punishment for which is penal
servitude, and that the order for your arrest is already given?"
The Captain sprang to his
feet. Young Cameron's face became ghastly pale. His hand
clutched the top of Mr. Rae's desk. Twice or thrice he moistened his
lips preparing to speak, but uttered not a word. "Good God, my boy!"
said the Captain hoarsely. "Don't stand like that. Tell him
you are innocent."
"One moment, Sir," said Mr.
Rae to the Captain. "Permit me." Mr. Rae's voice, while
perfectly courteous, was calmly authoritative.
"Mr. Allan," he continued,
turning to the wretched young man, "what money have you at present in your
With shaking hands young
Cameron emptied upon the desk the contents of his pocketbook, from which
the lawyer counted out ten one-pound notes, a half-sovereign and some
silver. "Where did you get this money, Mr. Allan?"
The young man, still
silent, drew his handkerchief from his pocket, touched his lips, and wiped
the sweat from his white face.
"Mr. Allan," continued the
lawyer, dropping again into a kindly voice, "a frank explanation will help
"Mr. Rae," said Cameron,
his words coming with painful indistinctness, "I don't understand this.
I can't think clearly. I can't remember. That money I got from
Potts; at least I must have--I have had money from no one else."
"My God!" cried the Captain
again. "To think that a son of mine should--!"
"Pardon me, Captain
Cameron," interrupted Mr. Rae quickly and somewhat sharply. "We must
not prejudge this case. We must first understand it."
At this point Dunn stepped
swiftly to Cameron's side. "Brace up, old chap," he said in a low
tone. Then turning towards the Captain he said, "I beg your pardon,
Sir, but I do think it's only fair to give a man a chance to explain."
"Allow me, gentlemen," said
Mr. Rae in a firm, quiet voice, as the Captain was about to break forth.
"Allow me to conduct this examination."
Cameron turned his face
toward Dunn. "Thank you, old man," he said, his white lips
quivering. "I will do my best, but before God, I don't understand
"Now, Mr. Allan," continued
the lawyer, tapping the desk sharply, "here are two cheques for fifty
pounds, both drawn by your father, both endorsed by you, one apparently
cashed by Mr. Potts, one by yourself. What do you know about this?"
"Mr. Rae," replied the
young man, his voice trembling and husky, "I tell you I can't understand
this. I ought to say that for the last two weeks I haven't been
quite myself, and whiskey always makes me forget. I can walk around
steadily enough, but I don't always know what I am doing--"
"That's so, Sir," said Dunn
quickly, "I've seen him."
"--And just what happened
with these cheques I do not know. This cheque," picking up the one
endorsed to Potts, "I remember giving to Potts. The only other
cheque I remember is a five-pound one."
"Do you remember cashing
that five-pound cheque?" inquired Mr. Rae.
"I carried it about for
some days. I remember that, because I once offered it to Potts in
part payment, and he said--" the white face suddenly flushed a deep red.
"Well, Mr. Allan, what did
"It doesn't matter," said
"It may and it may not,"
said Mr. Rae sharply. "It is your duty to tell us."
"Out with it," said his
father angrily. "You surely owe it to me, to us all, to let us have
Cameron paid no attention
to his father's words. "It has really no bearing, Sir, but I
remember saying as I offered a five-pound cheque, 'I wish it was fifty.'"
"And what reply did Mr.
Potts make?" said Mr. Rae, with quiet indifference, as if he had lost
interest in this particular feature of the case.
Again Cameron hesitated.
"Come, out with it!" said
his father impatiently.
His son closed his lips as
if in a firm resolve. "It really has nothing whatever to do with the
"Play the game, old man,"
said Dunn quietly.
"Oh, all right!" said
Cameron. "It makes no difference anyway. He said in a joke,
'You could easily make this fifty; it is such mighty poor writing.'"
Still Mr. Rae showed no
sign of interest. "He suggested in a joke, I understand, that the
five-pound cheque could easily be changed into fifty pounds. That
was a mere pleasantry of Mr. Potts', doubtless. How did the
suggestion strike you, Mr. Allan?"
Allan looked at him in
"I mean, did the suggestion
strike you unpleasantly, or how?"
"I don't think it made any
impression, Sir. I knew it was a joke."
"A joke!" groaned his
father. "Good Heavens! What do you think--?"
"Once more permit me," said
Mr. Rae quietly, with a wave of his hand toward the Captain. "This
cheque of five pounds has evidently been altered to fifty pounds.
The question is, by whom, Mr. Allan? Can you answer that?" Again Mr.
Rae's eyes were searching the young man's face.
"I have told you I remember
nothing about this cheque."
"Is it possible, Mr. Allan,
that you could have raised this cheque yourself without your knowing--?"
"Oh, nonsense!" said his
father hotly, "why make the boy lie?"
His son started as if his
father had struck him. "I tell you once more, Mr. Rae, and I tell
you all, I know nothing about this cheque, and that is my last word."
And from that position nothing could move him.
"Well," said Mr. Rae,
closing the interview, "we have done our best. The law must take its
"Great Heavens!" cried the
Captain, springing to his feet. "Do you mean to tell me, Allan, that
you persist in this cursed folly and will give us no further light?
Have you no regard for my name, if not for your own?" He grasped his
son fiercely by the arm.
But his son angrily shook
off his grasp. "You," he said, looking his father full in the face,
"you condemned me before you heard a word from me, and now for my name or
for yours I care not a tinker's curse." And with this he flung
himself from the room.
"Follow him," said Mr. Rae
to Dunn, quietly; "he will need you. And keep him in sight; it is
"All right, Sir!" said
Dunn. "I'll stay with him." And he did.